While equestrian sport is on the competition program for Tokyo’s Olympic Games, there is no guarantee show jumping, dressage, or three-day eventing will be retained post-2020, FEI president Ingmar De Vos has warned.
‘To change or be changed’ was the message sent by IOC president Thomas Bach to global sports federations nearly a year ago when the IOC unanimously approved Agenda 2020, a strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic movement. According to de Vos, the IOC made it absolutely clear that equestrian sport had to make an effort to be contemporary and unique.
In response to that challenge, FEI discipline committees canvassed opinions before presenting a number of fairly radical ideas on how to accomplish the move from a sport-based to an event-based Olympic program, during the FEI’s November General Assembly in Puerto Rico.
Harmonizing Olympic equestrian sport with a cap of three team members across the three disciplines was one of the most controversial proposals. Removing team drop scores and reversing the order of individual and team finales are also on the table.
“I am pleased that the FEI is taking a proactive and progressive consultative approach to strengthening the position of equestrian sport on the Olympic and Paralympic Games program,” commented Equine Canada’s High Performance director Amie O’Shaughnessy. “There have been many great discussions about the type of format changes that are needed.”
O’Shaughnessy said EC did not support reducing teams to three athletes in eventing or show jumping, but agreed with the concept of having the individual competition before the team competition in show jumping to address the issue of equalizing the number of rounds jumped. “However, we maintain that the Olympic team format should be four accredited riders in a Nations’ Cup format with four riders in the first round with one drop score.” She could, however, foresee a “second round with three riders only and no drop score.”
She added that Canada supported reducing the time of the eventing dressage test in order to reduce the number of competition days overall, but did not advocate the proposal to use the individual stadium phase as a means of determining the best teams to jump for the team medals. After all, “Canada is a nation that focuses on team competition.”
O’Shaughnessy said Canada favoured some of the alternatives suggested for dressage, including heats to determine finalists, the ability for teams to bring in a reserve, and a team final featuring a grand prix special test set to music.“The option to use a reserve horse for the team competition without requiring veterinary permission is excellent and will allow for improved performance strategies through substitution.”
The FEI plans further discussion on format change proposals at the FEI Sports Forum next April. New formats will then be voted on at the FEI General Assembly in 2016 before being submitted to the IOC in early 2017.
FEI GA HIGHLIGHTS AT A GLANCE:
- Approval of the Bosnia and Herzegovina National Federation (BIH) brought the number of FEI-affiliated national federations to 134.
- Following the suspension of the Kuwait Olympic Committee by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the General Assembly suspended the national federation. Kuwaiti athletes will be eligible to compete under the FEI flag during the period of the suspension.
RULE CHANGES – JUMPING
- Elimination incurred by not leaving the arena mounted now includes an exception if a fall occurs after crossing the finish line, in which case the athlete is not required to remount prior to leaving the arena.
- The course designer for continental championships for young riders, juniors, children and pony riders must now be a Level 3 course designer at least.
- If the grand prix takes place on the first day of an event, or if it is the only class at the event, the organizing committee must schedule a training session to allow athletes to jump their horse in the arena prior to the grand prix.
- An FEI-registered pony entered in a CSI in any category must be ridden by an athlete aged 12-16.
RULE CHANGES – DRESSAGE
- Protective headgear will now be mandatory for children, pony riders, juniors, and young riders at horse inspections. In competition, athletes 22 years and older (previously the age was 19) and who are riding horses that are seven years and older may wear a top hat/bowler.
- For seniors, under-25 riders and young riders, a 2% penalty for a first error of course will be applied, with elimination for a second error of course. Errors of course for juniors, pony riders, and children categories will receive a 0.5% penalty for a first error, 1% for a second error, and elimination for a third error.
- Specific tests and a judging system for young horses have been developed following discussions between the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH), the NFs and the FEI, and an FEI Championship for seven-year old horses will also be introduced in 2016.
- Discreet noise-reducing ear hoods are now permitted for indoor as well as outdoor events, but not earplugs (except for prize-giving ceremonies).
RULE CHANGES – EVENTING
- Main rule changes include a modification of the minimum eligibility requirements for 4* events to be effective as of
July 4, 2016.
- A new series, the Event Riders Masters, will start in 2016 with six CIC3* in Great Britain – Chatsworth, Bramham, Barbury Castle, Gatcombe, Blair Castle and Blenheim – with plans to expand to other nations in 2017.
- An independent audit presented by Charles Barnett (GBR) offered key recommendations including reinforcement of qualifications for all 4-star events, specifically for lower-category athletes, and exploring new methods to collect data at events (eg. headcams on fence judges).
- The global Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Program will be progressively rolled out during 2016, including testing at selected events and at lower-level competitions.
- The use of tongue ties is prohibited.
- Changes to the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations were approved, including the Specified Substances concept, to recognize that it is possible for a substance to enter a horse’s system inadvertently. This will allow the FEI more flexibility when prosecuting a case or when making a sanctioning decision.